France's 'no': winners and losers

30th May 2005, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, May 30 (AFP) - After French voters decisively rejected the European Union's first-ever constitution in a national referendum, sparking a political crisis in the 25-member bloc and in France itself, following is a list of the winners and losers of the hard-fought campaign.

PARIS, May 30 (AFP) - After French voters decisively rejected the European Union's first-ever constitution in a national referendum, sparking a political crisis in the 25-member bloc and in France itself, following is a list of the winners and losers of the hard-fought campaign.

THE WINNERS

Laurent Fabius: Fabius, a former prime minister, created a deep rift in the Socialist Party when he declared his opposition to the EU constitution. The 58-year-old number two in the party has thinly-veiled presidential ambitions, and many observers believe he joined the "no" camp to position himself ahead of the 2007 race for the Elysee.

Now that voters have rejected the treaty, Fabius stands to carve out a new niche for himself within the PS. He was due to appear on national television later Monday to offer his first reactions to Sunday's historic vote.

Philippe de Villiers: The 56-year-old aristocrat is the leader of the Catholic-leaning, anti-European, nationalist Movement for France (MPF). Villiers built his "no" campaign on French fears of Turkey's eventual membership of the EU.

After Sunday's vote, Villiers called for President Jacques Chirac's resignation and the dissolution of the lower-house National Assembly, saying the outcome had plunged France into a "major political crisis". He could be a candidate in the 2007 presidential election.

Jean-Marie Le Pen: The 77-year-old leader of the far-right National Front (FN), Le Pen stunned France when he won through to the second round of the 2002 presidential election before being defeated by Chirac.

He kept a relatively low profile during the EU campaign, especially since his traditional May 1 rally - billed as a huge gathering of the "no" camp - only drew a few thousand supporters, but nonetheless backed the winning side.

Like Villiers, he called for Chirac's resignation and early parliamentary elections, saying the president and his ruling center-right government had been "clearly disavowed".

Marie-George Buffet: The leader of the Communist Party finds herself in a position to rally the far-left ahead of the 2007 presidential election. An ardent advocate of a new left-leaning union that would include the Socialists, Communists, Trotskyists and anti-globalization activists, she hailed Sunday's "popular united front" as reminiscent of student revolts in May 1968. Buffet, 55, is also hoping to bolster the appeal of her party, which only won four percent in the first round of the 2002 presidential election.

THE LOSERS

Jacques Chirac: The resounding "no" vote was a slap in the face to Chirac, who took the decision to hold a referendum rather than see the constitution passed by parliament, and tarnished his place in the history books. It also effectively dashed the 72-year-old's hopes of running for a third term as president in 2007.

In his first reaction to Sunday's outcome, he promised to give "a new and strong impulse to government action", hinting that a cabinet reshuffle was imminent. The first likely victim? Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin.

Jean-Pierre Raffarin: The 56-year-old prime minister campaigned diligently for the EU constitution, but some members of the "yes" camp complained privately that each of the unpopular premier's appearances gave a boost to the "no" camp. He was forced off the campaign for a week earlier this month after undergoing emergency gall bladder surgery.

"Our fellow citizens have decided to reject the treaty. For me - a
European at heart - this is a profound disappointment," he said Sunday in a statement.

Early Monday, Raffarin - Chirac's premier since 2002 - told reporters
there would be "developments" either during the day or Tuesday, amid mounting speculation that his resignation was imminent.

Francois Hollande: The leader of the opposition Socialist Party campaigned alongside Chirac for the EU treaty. The PS was ripped apart by debate over the constitution. Although the 50-year-old Hollande saw his party officially approve the treaty, a group of dissidents led by Fabius championed the "no" cause.

Hollande's political future is now in doubt, with Fabius's position
bolstered by the French rejection of the treaty. The PS is expected to hold a party congress in the coming months to decide its future orientation.

THE WILD CARDS

Nicolas Sarkozy: The charismatic former finance minister took over as
leader of Chirac's ruling Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) six months ago.

The 50-year-old Sarkozy is the president's arch-rival, and has made no secret of his wish to replace Chirac at the Elysee.

He raised eyebrows last week when he reportedly said the campaign was
"lost". Now that his prediction has become a reality, Sarkozy - France's most popular politician - will emerge relatively unscathed from the referendum debacle.

Some have cited Sarkozy as a possible replacement for Raffarin, but his
supporters say he would only agree to be prime minister if he had a free hand to implement his program of liberal economic reforms.


© AFP

Subject: French News

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